Signs of Constipation

Constipation is a prevalent problem among children, but parents are often unsure whether or not their child is struggling with constipation.

Some common signs that your child is constipated include:

  • Going more than one day between having a bowel movement.
  • Having hard and small bowel movements. (Follow this link to see what your child’s stool should look like.)
  • Straining or pain when trying to have a bowel movement
  • Reporting frequent abdominal pain, discomfort, feeling full quickly after eating, bloating, or gas
  • Urinary leakage during the day, bedwetting, or bowel leakage during the day

Always talk to your child’s physician if you have concerns regarding constipation. The above symptoms may also have other underlying causes that need to be addressed.

Strategies for improving constipation include using perfect potty posture. Use of appropriate positioning on the toilet allows for pelvic floor relaxation which can assist with complete emptying of bowel and bladder contents when sitting and also places child in the optimal position for having a bowel movement.

This includes:

  • Sitting on toilet with feet resting on stool at a height that allows knees to be level with or slightly higher than hips
  • Leaning forward slightly with arms propped on legs
  • Focusing on having a bowel movement rather than being on a phone/tablet or reading a book
  • Sitting in the morning and after meals to try to have a bowel movement. Our bowels are most active when we wake up in the mornings and after meals.
  • Try having your child sit for 15 minutes after supper to try to have a bowel movement.
  • Use of breathing out while pushing to have a bowel movement. Many children hold their breath when having a bowel movement, which results in difficulty relaxing the pelvic floor muscles to successfully have a bowel movement.
  • Remind your child to breathe out while they are pushing. Using the imagery of blowing bubbles or birthday candles out can help children understand what you are asking them to do. Use of a pinwheel can also encourage exhalation while a child is trying to have a bowel movement.
  • Increasing water intake throughout the day. Many children drink a few sips of water from the drinking fountain throughout the day which does not provide adequate water intake. Aim for your child to drink half of their body weight in ounces of water each day, with that water intake spread throughout the day. Sending a water bottle to school can help with this. Example: If your child weighs 60 pounds, they should drink 30 ounces of water each day. Reminder: this entire amount should not be drank in one sitting.

If your child continues to demonstrate signs of constipation despite use of these strategies, talk to your his or her pediatrician about ways to more effectively manage the problem. LifeScape Rehabilitation Center also provides physical therapy services for children with constipation ages 5 and up. If you feel your child would benefit from this, talk with your child’s pediatrician. He or she can facilitate a referral to LifeScape for physical therapy services.

Call us for details: In Sioux Falls, 605-444-9700. In Sioux City, 712-226-ABLE (2253). In Rapid City, 605-791-7400.

Learn more about our therapy services here.

-Nicole Koskovich, DPT, PT, Physical Therapist, LifeScape